Musical Inspiration – Using Tonal Ingenuity For Maximum Creativity

Yummy Music

See the Music

Today is Devil’s Night here in Detroit, or as some of the locals have rebrand it: Angel’s Night, due to the selfless volunteers sacrificing their freedom and evening to patrol darkened streets to prevent nefarious people from setting buildings ablaze and other criminal activities throughout the decimated urban setting.

Fun fact: “The Crow,” both the original comic book and the movie starring Brandon Lee was based in Detroit and focused the main plot-line around stopping the criminals torching the city on Devil’s Night, or “light it up, light it up.

Since it’s October 30th, this means it is also two days away from the start of Nano, depending on when you choose to begin writing the first of many drafts. Saturday is day one of Nano, and since it’s the weekend, I’d like to extend an invitation to anyone on Facebook or Twitter to ask any questions of me and I’ll do my best to write an extended response to help in any way I can for those taking the plunge in the nano marathon.

For today’s topic, I wanted to bring something to the attention of the class that I only recently found out about myself, since I knew this term existed, but didn’t know it had a scientific code.

I’d like to share a bit about my past first, though:

As a young boy, I was raised by my sister and mother primarily, since my dad worked afternoons. My sister read mostly horror books such as Stephen King and the occasional Dragonrider’s novel, while my mom read anything she could get her hands on with subscriptions to Reader’s Digest and multiple magazines arriving every other day. I could read at a very young age, and in Kindergarten, my teacher would have me read the 4th and 5th grade books to the rest of the class while they took nap-time, since the teacher also happened to be friends with my mom. However, before kindergarten, mom picked up a large moving box full of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books at a garage sale. These were the paperback-style pocket books which smelled of faint cigar smoke and yellowed mold from someone’s basement. Within this box, also contained a small collection of old 45 records. (To those young enough to raise an eyebrow at the “45 record” comment, a recorded single from a musician would release a smaller version of a large record or LP on a smaller disk, or 45. The “45” referred to the speed at which the platter spun on the turntable: 45 rotations per minute.) Throughout the summer months, I voraciously read each Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys paperback while listening to repeated playing of random 1960’s singles, such as “Dirty Water” by The Standells, and “Riders of the Storm” by The Doors.

I’ve always been a fan of music and figured it had something to do with my mom being talented (not the last name) with singing and instruments, and some of my brothers and sisters playing instruments. So when I began making my music in middle school, it surprised no one. I already drew comic books, painted portraits and did artistic things with various mediums, so teachers and my family thought music was naturally next.

Reading and writing was a bit different, since I always saw it as a stepping stone to a larger goal. Writing was necessary for comic books and music, but it was integrated as part of a larger picture – if that makes sense. I had to write, even from a young age – to do what I wanted to do with other things. In order to make an album with friends, which we did in 7th grade on a small 4 track recorder and a karaoke machine, writing was a singular piece to a larger puzzle. If I think back, the first piece of real creative writing I ever wrote that made anyone pay attention to the story was in kindergarten with a small book called “How the Cheetah Got Its Spots” about how each cheetah secretly held large races like NASCAR at night-time and when they won, the spots grew where the sponsors logos were during the races. I was 5.

Anyway, while listening to the Roundtable Podcast episode with Delilah Dawson, she began talking about a phenomenon she sees when she hears music. This is “Synesthesia.” It’s a series of different effects for everyone affected, however the basic idea is when one sense comes into the brain, it crosses paths with another and triggers multiple senses. For me, when I hear music, I see and feel different colors and moods. I can listen to Tori Amos’ rendition of “Reign In Blood” and see sky blue swathes of slow ink dripping into a pool of honeydew that feels bottomless and claustrophobic. I really couldn’t explain WHY, but that’s what it feels like. In all honesty, I thought everyone had this and it was one of those strange things no one talked about. However, listening to various kinds of music while writing or doing something creative triggers different feelings and effects creatively throughout the entire process and makes things smoother in the end.

So this long-ass post might mean nothing to you – or it might mean everything. Take it with a grain of salt.

It’s worth a shot, though, especially if it’s something you feel may help. Put on various music and begin writing – see what results you see. There is a good chance you’ll surprise yourself and improve your skill at the same time.


P.S. Yes, similar to Delilah, I make playlists for each scene I’m writing, depending on the world, time frame, characters, and how they are acting or supposed to act in that scene. For an example: Kasabian’s Empire album I’m using for this year’s nano album because of the electronic sounds, the grunge/metal riffs, and catchy lyrics, along with some more of the blues arpeggios mixed in to the album. The nano story revolves around an android who think’s she’s human.

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